Construction work continues for two projects at the Maine-Canada border. The replacement of a 100-year-old bridge and a new port of entry which will save trucks from a long detour due to load restrictions.
There is expected to be an increase in U.S.-Canadian traffic by the end of next year. That is due to the dual opening of Maine’s $97.5 million Madawaska International Bridge replacement project and its adjacent new U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s land port of entry with Canada’s city of Edmundston in New Brunswick.
“The completion of a new bridge will ensure a safer, more reliable and much quicker route for the rest of our lifetimes,” Paul Merrill, director of communications at the Maine Department of Transportation (Maine DOT), said in an interview. “The current truck detour is 52 miles. This is an economic burden on businesses on both sides of the international border.”
A new bridge is being built over the St. John River that's 1,400 feet from the old one, and is twice the length, built on a 45 degree angle in Maine’s town of Madawaska.
The new bridge will have wider travel lanes, shoulders on both sides, a raised sidewalk and steel girders supported on concrete substructures designed to last a century
The existing bridge, built in 1920, is obsolete and so deteriorated that it has been weight-restricted to 5 tons since 2017 which has caused delays in border crossings, posing difficulties for emergency response vehicles, and restricting commerce, especially for Maine’s paper mills and lumber industries.
“Transporting the raw materials and finished goods for these industries is now hampered in the region because trucks can no longer use the bridge for commerce connecting mills to suppliers and vast Canadian markets. Trucks must now detour to other border crossings, creating additional costs in the form of truck miles on area roads, additional roadway safety concerns for other areas in the region and higher production expenses that are burdensome to the remaining employers in the area,” according to a Maine Department of Transportation federal grant application.
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) awarded the bridge project $36 million in 2019 through an Infrastructure for Rebuilding American grant. The remaining project costs are being shared by Maine DOT and Canada’s New Brunswick Department of Transportation and Infrastructure.
“Replacing the International Bridge supports the safe travel of American and Canadian residents and visitors alike, as well as the strength of small businesses who rely on the bridge to transport their products across our borders,” said Maine Governor Janet Mills on a tour of the Madawaska-Edmundston International Bridge Project.
Legislators threw in an extra $185 million of funding into the project this year.
Maine DOT Commissioner Bruce Van Note remarked: “State funding coupled with continued support from our federal partners helped make this project and others possible.” He also thanked New Brunswick officials “who have been excellent partners during the planning, design, permitting and construction phases of this project.”
When the new bridge is opened to traffic, expected at the end of 2023, Maine DOT will turn its attention to demolishing the old bridge (that will close the project by June 2025). Maine DOT started bridge construction in May 2021, while official groundbreaking for the new port facility began last September.
Source: Maine DOT